Wanda Pulido recently moved to the Terraces at Brookhaven apartments on Buford Highway with her mother and younger sister. The 16-year-old attended Cross Keys High School her freshman year and half of her sophomore year and said crowding made it “horrible.”

Wanda Pulido says overcrowding at Cross Keys High School was so bad it was hard to walk in the hallways. (Photo Dyana Bagby)

“It was hard to walk in the hallways. In some of the classes [teachers] would have to bring in another desk or chairs because there was not enough,” she said.

On March 7, the DeKalb Board of Education unanimously approved a plan to temporarily redistrict the Cross Keys cluster to try to alleviate the overcrowding by relocating some 1,700 students in six north DeKalb schools to other schools. The plan goes into effect this fall and affects mostly elementary school students.

Wanda’s sister, Joselyn, 8, is one of those students. She is being transferred to Fernbank Elementary from Montclair Elementary.

“I don’t like that some of the elementary kids have to go to Fernbank. That’s like 45 minutes away,” Wanda said.

Joselyn takes the bus to Montclair now, but it’s also less than a 10-minute walk to the school from their apartment, Wanda said. Without a car, Wanda’s mom worries that if there is an emergency at Fernbank she will have no way to help her daughter.

Due to the redistricting, Wanda said she and her family will likely move again so Joselyn can stay in a neighborhood school.

“She’s just kind of sad. She feels really, really scared,” Wanda said.

Rebekah Morris, a Cross Keys High School teacher and mentor to Wanda, said she wished the school district addressed the overcrowding at Sequoyah Middle School and also opposed sending so many Montclair students to Fernbank. “It wasn’t a good option,” she said.

Wanda enrolled at Chamblee Charter High School after the recent move to Terraces at Brookhaven and it was a major improvement over Cross Keys, she said.

But after attending Chamblee for two months, Wanda had to quit. The school bus doesn’t come to her complex. Her mother, who was born in Mexico and doesn’t speak English, cleans houses for a living and the expense became too much.

“It was $15 to go to school and $15 to come back, so like $150 a week,” Wanda said. “Now I’m trying to do something online.”

Morris worries about disrupting students by moving them to other schools. But there are definite positives as well, Morris said. Cross Keys students attending Chamblee will have additional chances to take advanced placement classes and more options such as drama and theater; access to better technology; and more opportunities to learn in less crowded conditions.

“I’m proud our district is paying attention to our voices … and I know the district is reaching out to our community,” Morris said. “But there is a lot of uncertainty. As soon as the district can have a long-term solution, that will ease the transition.”